Against the Grain

Mindless Tribalism Infecting American Politics

New polling shows voters in both parties hate the other side more than they support their own party’s policies.

AP Photo/David Zalubowski
June 10, 2018, 6 a.m.

This week’s NBC/Wall Street Journal poll contained news of a disheartening but unsurprising development: Voters in both parties hate the opposition more than they support their own side’s policies. This dynamic, known as negative polarization, is poisoning our politics and contributing to a mindless tribalism.

The survey found that just 41 percent of Democratic voters are voting for Democratic candidates because of their stand on issues, while 54 percent are doing so because they hate President Trump more. Among Republicans, the breakdown is similar: 44 percent of Republicans back their party because of the issues, while 52 percent oppose Democrats more.

For Democrats, it’s a continuation of an unhealthy trend. In September 2010, when President Obama was in office, nearly half of Democratic voters (48 percent) said they were backing the party for positive reasons. With Republicans in control of the House four years later, that number dropped to 40 percent—about where it stands today.

Republicans have largely been in opposition mode since Obama’s presidency. But it wasn’t always that way: In 1994, when Bill Clinton was president, only 34 percent of Republicans said they voted for their party because of a hatred of the president’s policies—18 points fewer than today, with their party holding a governing majority.

The days of a policy-oriented Contract with America are long gone. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, reflecting the partisan evolution, can now be relied on to rally support for Trump by going on television and convincing partisans the other side is filled with secular heathens trying to destroy America.

Pew Research Center’s recent polling finds even more signs that the two parties are feeding off of negativity to advance their political arguments. A 53 percent majority of Republicans believe they’re losing more than winning, even though they control the presidency, the Senate, and the House, and hold a conservative majority on the Supreme Court. Democrats, who slammed Republicans for supporting confrontation over compromise during the Obama years, are now watching their own party adopt the same tactics. As recently as last year, 69 percent of Democrats preferred elected officials who work with people they disagree with; that number has plummeted to 46 percent in Pew’s March survey.

Other signs abound of our deepening polarization. Republican lobbyist Bruce Mehlman, one of the sharpest political trend-watchers in town, wrote in his latest quarterly memo: “While polls have consistently shown more Americans disapprove of Trump’s job performance than approve, those numbers reflect historic disapproval among the opposing party as much as anything else.” Mehlman notes that Trump’s 87 percent job approval with his own party, at this point in his presidency, is the second-highest in political history since World War II. Meanwhile, Trump’s 10 percent approval is the worst from the other side in recorded history.

It doesn’t take a political savant to appreciate that these trends will give Trump a fighting chance to win a second term, even if he’s still loathed by much of the country. It’s easy to overlook that 61 percent of Americans viewed Trump as unqualified for the presidency on the day that 46 percent of voters cast ballots for him as president.

Despite the tumult surrounding his administration, Trump’s job-approval rating has inched up to 44 percent in the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, and 45 percent in the new Fox national survey. Those are just below the level necessary for Trump to win a second term, but if Democrats let their own empowered base to choose their 2020 nominee, they may be close enough for comfort.

What We're Following See More »
HAD BEEN A CAREER EMPLOYEE THERE
DoD IG Probing Shanahan for Bias in Favor of Boeing
8 hours ago
THE LATEST

"The Department of Defense’s Inspector General confirmed Wednesday that it has launched an investigation into allegations that Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan violated ethics rules by promoting his former employer, Boeing, during his time at the DoD."

Source:
SAYS NO MORE HIKES THIS YEAR
Fed Holds Tight on Rates
10 hours ago
THE DETAILS

"The Federal Reserve decided Wednesday to hold interest rates steady and indicated that no more hikes will be coming this year. In a unanimous move that coincides with market expectations and demands, the central bank’s policymaking Federal Open Market Committee took a sharp dovish turn from policy projections just three months earlier. After the announcement, 10-year Treasury yields fell to their lowest level in a year."

Source:
NO INDICTMENTS SINCE JANUARY
Mueller's Team Down to 10 Lawyers
15 hours ago
THE LATEST

"Mueller’s team, once filled with 17 lawyers, will soon be down to 10. The special counsel’s office confirmed in recent days that Zainab Ahmad’s detail has ended, and Andrew Weissmann will soon be leaving for the private sector. No one has been charged by the special counsel since longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone was indicted in January for allegedly lying to Congress."

Source:
HE PLANNED TO LEAVE MID-MARCH
Rosenstein Not Leaving DOJ Yet
1 days ago
THE LATEST
MANAFORT STEERED HIM WORK IN UKRAINE
Prosecutors Weighing Whether to Charge Greg Craig
2 days ago
THE LATEST

A long-running federal investigation into former Obama White House counsel Gregory Craig "is reaching a critical stage, presenting the Justice Department with a decision about whether to charge a prominent Democrat as part of a more aggressive crackdown on illegal foreign lobbying." Federal prosecutors in New York have transferred the case to Washington. ... The investigation centers on whether Mr. Craig should have disclosed work he did in 2012 — while he was a partner at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom — on behalf of the Russia-aligned government of Viktor F. Yanukovych, then the president of Ukraine. The work was steered to Mr. Craig by Paul Manafort."

Source:
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login